Friday, 11 January 2013

Hope grows for mentally disabled mother threatened with forced abortion

Last Monday, the Telegraph carried a report that doctors from the south of England were applying for a court order to allow them to carry out an abortion on a mentally disabled woman without her consent.

The woman concerned reportedly suffers from sickle cell disease and doctors were "concerned that allowing her pregnancy to continue any further could endanger her life".

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) immediately contacted its lawyers asking to have access to court documents to enable us to consider whether we might apply to be made party to the proceedings referred to in the Telegraph report. SPUC added that the information available to us was limited to what was contained in the Telegraph article.

We made the point that there's a substantial body of medical opinion challenging the contention that abortion is ever necessary to save the life or health of the mother. We argued that "since a mentally competent mother would have the right to take account of such evidence, SPUC considers that such alternative medical opinion should be brought before the court in this case".

The news reports on the case today are varied, but here are some of the key stories:
" ... Mr Justice Hedley, sitting in the Court of Protection at London’s High Court, said it was 'in her best interests' if the woman, who [comes] from the south of England, was 'to continue with the pregnancy ... My instincts are that (her limited mental function) has nothing to do with the issue of whether a pregnancy should continue simply because once the child is born, if the mother doesn't have the ability to care for a child, society has perfectly adequate processes to deal with that." (The Mail)
And the BBC reports:
"Mr Justice Hedley said: 'It is right to observe that both expert and professional and family evidence in the case is it would be in her best interests to continue with the pregnancy, but that is outwith the jurisiction of this court'".
Upon our lawyer's further enquiries, court staff have stated that the judgment has not yet been handed down but that as the hearing was in open court, the judgment is expected to be available through the media in due course.

A leading medical consultant has told SPUC's advisers:
"First of all, the sickle cell disease is very treatable and she is going to have sickle cell disease whether she is pregnant or not pregnant. It does require, however, an obstetrician who is dedicated to seeing to it that it gets adequately treated.

"With regard to her mental disability ... there is literature that suggests that women who have psychological difficulties going into abortion are actually at higher risk to have psychological difficulties or problems after the abortion. Thus, mental disability should not be considered a reason for abortion on the basis that the mother will be helped by the abortion. In fact, the risk is higher for women like this to have problems or difficulties psychologically as a result of the abortion.

"Thus, an abortion in this woman’s circumstance is not necessary to save her life and will not improve her health. Good medical care, however, will improve her health and her life generally is not in jeopardy."
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